Visit Cape Town, South Africa
Sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean and Table Mountain, Cape Town attracts more visitors than any other place in Africa, with its natural setting, cosmopolitan culture and Mediterranean climate providing the appeal. Scaling Table Mountain — by foot or cable car — rewards you with panoramic views over the mountains, city and both oceans. You can also explore Cape Town’s turbulent history with a historical tour and a visit to Robben Island. Leisurely afternoons might involve browsing the shops and restaurants at Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, or relaxing on Camps Bay’s beach.
South Africa specialist Toby
I always remember Cape Town as being a vibrant city with big skies and genuine smiles. It has incredible scenery and a climate that provides a bounty of great food and wine.
Things to see and do in Cape Town
Soak up the history and culture
Cape Town’s multi-culturality is reflected in its food, architecture and historical sites. On the Footsteps to Freedom tour you learn about Dutch rule, see where slaves were once traded and explore the apartheid years with a visit to parliament. A boat ride across Table Bay to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent much of his imprisonment, provides further insight; former inmates conduct the tours. If you’re interested in discovering the cultural differences in Cape Town’s food, the Cape Town Eats tour takes you through back streets to taste a variety of delicacies from African soul food to bunny chow (a hollowed out loaf of bread filled with curry).
Once the ‘table cloth’ cloud has cleared, it’s well worth admiring Cape Town from the summit of Table Mountain. You can reach the top by taking the modern cable car, which completes a 360º rotation on its way, allowing you to appreciate the incredible views from all angles. More adventurously, you can also hike up the mountain with the help of a guide or independently, navigating steep, rocky trails and short vertical faces. Once at the top, you can explore the various pathways and viewpoints and enjoy refreshments in the restaurant. You may also spot the resident rock hyraxes, which resemble large hamsters.
Explore the scenic Cape Peninsula
Whether self-driving or exploring as part of a private tour, you’ll feel immersed in the wild landscape of the Cape Peninsula, despite the region’s popularity with visitors. The Cape is an area of profound natural beauty and huge ecological significance and, after passing through the classy suburbs of Camps Bay and Clifton and through numerous coastal towns and villages, you’ll reach the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. This makes up a significant part of the Cape Floral Kingdom, the smallest but most diverse of the world’s seven floral kingdoms. Fynbos — low-lying shrubs and colourful heathers — are the main vegetation, while the habitat supports animals such as antelope, ostriches, baboons and a variety of birdlife.
Whale watching and shark cage diving
The Cape Town coastline is visited by numerous whale and dolphin species, including southern right whales and humpback whales, which migrate each year from the icy waters of Antarctica to have their young. Gansbaai, a two hour drive from Cape Town, is the main launch pad for whale watching cruises, as well as shark cage dives, as high numbers of great white sharks patrol the waters between Dyer Island and Geyser Rock. This is an exhilarating way to acquaint yourself with these ominous but graceful creatures in their natural environment, whether you remain on the boat and watch them feeding on the surface or opt to be lowered into the water inside a galvanised steel cage for a closer view.
The rolling countryside and lure of trying South Africa’s finest wines makes taking a one to two hour drive out to the Winelands well worthwhile. On a private full-day tour you can sit back and admire the landscape as you wind through dramatic mountain ranges and expansive vineyards. Stop at Stellenbosch, South Africa’s second oldest town, to admire its canals, Cape Dutch architecture and wine, before heading over the Helshoogte Pass to Franschhoek, renowned for its cuisine and idyllic valley setting, where a patchwork of vineyards meets towering mountains. Here, you can visit a wine estate to taste more of the region’s produce, before moving on to the town of Paarl, set at the foot of a huge granite rock, for a final wine tasting.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
Nestled on the eastern slope of Table Mountain, the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens are home to a large collection of indigenous plants, from fynbos heather to bright strelitzias and proteas (South Africa’s national flower). There’s also a conservatory housing flora that grows in more extreme conditions, from mountain peaks to arid deserts. In addition, the gardens regularly host stone sculpture exhibitions and outdoor concerts. There are shady, secluded spots to sit in, or explore the pathways that meander through the woods and bushes in the upper areas of the gardens, which run unfenced into the slopes of the mountain.
Afternoon tea at the Mount Nelson
The delicious food and elegant surroundings of the renowned Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel makes for a truly memorable experience. You’ll tuck in to classic sandwiches, fresh cakes and mouth-watering pastries, as well as a wide selection of teas and coffees. The food is presented in the colonial-style grand sitting room, to the soft accompaniment of a pianist. If the weather is fine, you may opt to sit out in the property’s lush gardens, surrounded by shady trees and the sound of birdsong.
Best time to visit Cape Town
With warm, dry summers and a temperate winter climate, Cape Town makes an excellent year-round destination. Summer months (December to March) average a maximum temperature of 26°C and minimum of 16°C, while winter months (June to August) average a maximum of 18°C and minimum of 8.5°C. The hot Berg (‘mountain’) wind arrives in February or March, while in late spring there may be a strong southeasterly wind.
Festivals, events and seasonal reasons to visit
- Between June and November is the best time for whale watching off the coast, with southern right whales and humpback whales migrating from Antarctica to calve and rear their young.
- Springtime in the Cape sees the dry, dusty landscape transformed by a carpet of vibrant wildflowers, which spreads across South Africa’s west coast.
Suggested itineraries featuring Cape Town
Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in Cape Town, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.
South Africa and Zambia
South Africa, Botswana and Zambia
South Africa and Zambia
South Africa and Namibia
Map of Cape Town
Places & hotels on the map
Places near Cape Town
- Constantia 8 miles away
- The Cape Peninsula 24 miles away
- Stellenbosch 25 miles away
- The Winelands 33 miles away
- Paarl 34 miles away
- Franschhoek 41 miles away
- The Whale Coast 59 miles away
- Hermanus 59 miles away
- Langebaan 62 miles away
- De Kelders 70 miles away
- Paternoster 83 miles away
- The Overberg 89 miles away
- Montagu 99 miles away
- The Cederberg Mountains 106 miles away
- Swellendam 117 miles away
- Sanbona Game Reserve 123 miles away
- De Hoop Nature Reserve 127 miles away
- Calitzdorp 190 miles away
- Oudtshoorn & Surrounds 219 miles away
- The Cango Caves & Swartberg Pass 222 miles away
- Wilderness 239 miles away
- The Klein Karoo 260 miles away
- Knysna 266 miles away
- Plettenberg Bay 284 miles away
- Namaqualand 298 miles away
Photos of Cape Town
Our expert guides to exploring Cape Town
Written by our specialists from their own experiences of visiting Cape Town, these guides will help you make the most of your time there. We share both our practical recommendations and the best ways to appreciate Cape Town at its best.
Cape Town is a fantastic, cosmopolitan city with a superb location under Table Mountain. Any trip to South Africa is likely to include a few days here and our specialists can advise you on the many things you can see and do in this iconic city.
Accommodation choices for Cape Town
We’ve selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit Cape Town. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.
The Cape Cadogan offers guests an elegant, luxurious experience in a great location from which to enjoy Cape Town, within walking distance of the restaurants on Kloof Street and close to many of Cape Town’s key attractions.
Cape Grace enjoys an enviable location on a private quay in the heart of Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront, affording views over both the harbour, yacht marina and Table Mountain. This five-star luxury hotel is a Cape Town landmark, being one of the city's most iconic hotels.
Set in a quieter part of Cape Town, among the slopes of Table Mountain, Four Rosmead is a small, luxury boutique guesthouse. Built in 1903, the building enjoys wonderful architecture and is classified as a provincial monument. The interior embraces the heritage of the house, yet the guesthouse also has a modern feel.
Nestled on the slopes of Table Mountain in the tranquil suburb of Oranjezicht, Abbey Manor strikes the perfect balance in Cape Town providing guests with a relaxing base within easy reach of the city’s main attractions.
Situated within walking distance of the trendy Kloof Street in Cape Town, More Quarters is a luxury apartment hotel with an excellent service, providing a chic and modern home away from home for those wishing to explore the city.
Set on the slopes of Table Mountain in the suburb of Oranjezicht, the characterful Acorn House is located on a quiet residential road in beautiful gardens and provides a great value option for Cape Town.
Waterfront Village offers a ‘village’ of luxury self-catering, serviced apartments. Set around the harbour at the V&A Waterfront, the apartments offer a great alternative to a traditional hotel stay.
Striking design, an enviable location and some of the best views in the city make The Silo Cape Town’s trendiest property. The hotel is set in a former grain silo by the docks and offers large suites, eclectic interiors and a rooftop pool.
Azamare Guesthouse has been designed to give you the best mountain and sea views from every possible corner, as well as offering world-class facilities and a location within the trendiest part of Cape Town.
One & Only Cape Town is situated in Cape Town’s fashionable V&A Waterfront area. From its vantage point, you can look up to Table Mountain, and easily access the bars and restaurants of the Waterfront.
Located in a quiet residential area, but close to Kloof Street with its restaurants and bars, Welgelegen is a boutique guesthouse that combines traditional architecture and charm with modern styling and comfort.
Camps Bay Retreat is positioned between the mountainous ranges of Lions Head, Table Mountain and Twelve Apostles overlooking the endless vista of the Atlantic Ocean.
The rooms are uncluttered, with simple yet comfortable furnishings and their own balconies looking out to Camps Bay. The hotel is well placed for the renowned restaurants and bars of Camps Bay.
This is a luxurious hotel and the attention to detail in the décor and the service are absolutely excellent, while the location is superb. The hotel itself is elegant, relaxed and a firm Audley favourite.
Liberty Lodge has a great location on the edge of City Centre. The lodge is small and simple but gives great service, it benefits from excellent views of Table Mountain and is excellent value for money.
The Waterfront Apartments are situated in the heart of the Victoria and Albert Waterfront basin, with the dramatic Table Mountain as a backdrop.
The Belmond Mount Nelson is a hotel of deserved renown: her reputation and history alone justify a visit. The rooms and facilities are furnished to the most luxurious of modern standards and the service is excellent, ensuring a comfortable and interesting stay.
The Blue Train is perfect for those who want to take a relaxing journey across the country, in complete comfort and luxury.
The price and location of this hotel make it ideal for those who want to be within walking distance of Cape Town's Waterfront, without paying for all the whistles and bells of some of the neighbouring hotels.
Travelling on the Rovos Rail is partly a luxurious and grand way to cross the continent of Africa and the chance to experience some living history. Travel in a time when the journey was as important as the destination.
The Taj Cape Town was originally home to the South African Reserve Bank and combines the old historical charm of the building with the new modern feel of a vibrant five-star hotel along with its elegant contemporary architecture.
Ideas for experiencing Cape Town
Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting Cape Town, and which use the best local guides.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens occupy a large swathe of beautiful land on the lower slopes of Table Mountain. They house a huge collection of indigenous flora, such as heathery fynbos, flowering proteas and dramatically coloured strelitzias.
As with any major city there are a number of very good museums in Cape Town and you might like to visit some whilst you are here. Some of the ones that we personally recommend are District Six Museum, Gold of Africa Museum, and the Iziko Museums of Cape Town.
The beautifully restored carriages of Rovos Rail combine luxury travel with the chance to experience living history.
The Cape Peninsula is an area of dramatic natural beauty and huge ecological significance, which manages to retain a wild feel despite its huge popularity with visitors. As you drive south from Cape Town, you pass through the exclusive suburbs of Camps Bay and Clifton before continuing onto Hout Bay and through Constantia, where the road meanders behind Table Mountain and down onto the coast.
In the company of Pietman Retief, who is recognised as one of the leading wine experts in the country, you can experience the winelands and the history of the area through his passion.
Guest are taken to the lower terminal for the cable-car up Table Mountain. The cable-car is a very modern affair, and completes a 360º rotation during the ascent, affording you fantastic views over the city.
No visit to Cape Town is complete without a tour of the "Mother City". Your tour will include visits to the Castle of Good Hope, the Parliament Buildings and Bo-Kaap, plus of course the iconic Table Mountain.
Following a historic route between Pretoria and Cape Town, The Blue Train is one of South Africa’s finest rail journeys. On board, you can experience fine dining, relax in your own private suite and take in mountain views from the Observation Car.